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  1. #1
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    'Memphis Belle' gunner revisits England, dies at Battle of Britain Bunker

    U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Melvin Rector long carried England in his heart after he helped defend it during World War II, but 70 years passed without him stepping foot back in the country.


    The 94-year-old finally decided to leave his home in Barefoot Bay, Fla., to visit Britain earlier this month. The National World War II Museum in New Orleans conducts a travel program through which interested parties can visit certain sites of the war. He signed up for one, in hopes of visiting RAF Snetterton Heath in Norfolk.


    He served there with the 96th Bomb Group in 1945 as a radio operator and gunner on B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, flying eight combat missions over Germany during the spring of the war's final year. On four of these missions, his plane came under heavy fire. One almost proved catastrophic, and the plane returned to base with holes dotting its wings.


    One of the aircraft on which he served as a gunner was the Memphis Belle, the first heavy bomber to complete its tour by flying 25 missions with its crew intact. It went on to have a post-war career raising morale and money for the U.S. Army. Writes historian John Buescher of the warplane:


    "After both crew and plane completed their respective 25th mission, the crew received the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross. They were then ordered in June to fly the Memphis Belle back to the United States for a cross-country tour, the aim of which was to increase morale back home and to sell War Bonds. . . . When the Memphis Belle completed its tour (the first heavy bomber to do so), it was a joyful event, not only for the crew, but also for the entire air command and the American public."


    The B-17 Flying Fortress garnered such attention that not one but two films were made about it: a documentary in 1944 and an eponymously titled drama in 1990, starring John Lithgow, Matthew Modine and Harry Connick, Jr.
    Rector was excited for his return to the place that made this great plane famous.
    "He planned it for like the last six months," Darlene O'Donnell, Rector's stepdaughter, told Florida Today of the trip. "He couldn't wait to go."
    On Rector's long flight over the Atlantic, the pilot of his American Airlines flight summoned him to the cockpit so the two could take a photograph together. "The flight attendant stopped us and said, 'Mr. Rector, the captain would like to meet you,'" Susan Jowers told Florida Today.


    She had become almost a daughter to Rector after serving as his guardian during a 2011 Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C., and she accompanied him on this tour.
    On May 6, Rector stepped foot on British soil for the first time in 71 years. The group first visited RAF Uxbridge in the London Borough of Hillingdon.
    Rector toured Battle of Britain Bunker, an underground command center where fighter airplane operations were directed during D-Day. After climbing back into the sunlight, he told Jowers he felt dizzy. She grabbed one of his arms, and a stranger grabbed the other.


    There, just outside the bunker where Winston Churchill famously said, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few," Rector died quietly.


    "He walked out of that bunker like his tour was done," Jowers said.
    Sandy Vavruich, Rector's daughter, said it's how he would have liked to pass on, even though he sadly never did make it to RAF Snetterton Heath.
    "He couldn't have asked for a better way to go," she told Florida Today. "It was quick and painless. He had just gotten to see two planes, and he passed away between them."


    Before repatriating his remains to the United States, a small service for the fallen hero was planned in Britain. It did not remain a small service.
    "They just wanted something very simple. And when I found a little bit of background out about Melvin, there was no way we were going to just give him a very simple service," Neil Sherry, the British funeral director in charge of Rector's service, told ITV London News. "I wanted it to be as special as possible."
    Though Jowers expected no more than four people, word of Rector's war record reached the American and British Armed Forces. The American Embassy donated a flag to drape over his coffin, and the room filled with servicemen and women and London historians who had never met Rector but wanted to pay their respects to their spiritual brother in arms.


    One of them was U.S. Army Maj. Leif Purcell. He may not have known Rector, but he attended the funeral on May 18.


    "Representation from the Royal Air Force and the British Army I saw here was phenomenal," Purcell told ITV London News. "I was expecting just to see myself and maybe two or three other U.S. service members and a priest, and that was it. So it was very delightful to see."


    Speaking to the congregation, one U.S. serviceman said, "I do know of his sacrifice and his family's sacrifice, so you do him and his family a great honor by being here today."


    Jowers was pleased.


    "He certainly got a beautiful send-off," Jowers told Florida Today. "People everywhere, from Cambridge to London, heard his story."


    Vavruich, who lives in Gloversville, N.Y., was also touched by the outpouring of respect. She, along with Rector's five other children, will have the opportunity to pay their respects on June 9 at First Baptist Church of Barefoot Bay. Rector's remains were repatriated to the U.S. on Tuesday.
    "He completed his final mission," Jowers said.






    'Memphis Belle' gunner revisits England, dies at Battle of Britain Bunker - Veterans - Stripes

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by bsnub
    Melvin Rector long carried England in his heart after he helped defend it during World War II,
    Cute, but with all due respect MB didn't deploy to Britain until late 1942. The Battle of Britain was long over by then, Hitler had launched his disastrous invasion of Russia near 18 months before, and the UK was very much on the offensive. Any question of 'defending Britain' was long gone.
    probes Aliens

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    ^A poor choice of wording by the author however the point is this Veteran went out in the best way he possibly could have and was honored respectfully.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by bsnub
    Melvin Rector long carried England in his heart after he helped defend it during World War II,
    Cute, but with all due respect MB didn't deploy to Britain until late 1942. The Battle of Britain was long over by then, Hitler had launched his disastrous invasion of Russia near 18 months before, and the UK was very much on the offensive. Any question of 'defending Britain' was long gone.
    But don't you think it's admirable that he risked his life to fight tyranny so that smug litle c u n t s like you could sit behind your keyboard being pedantic?


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    Quote Originally Posted by harrybarracuda
    risked his life to fight tyranny
    More like it.

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    Nice, a very high class tribute by the RAF and British historians and the American Air Force for a member of our finest generation.

    Nice to read something that feels good for a change.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by bsnub
    Melvin Rector long carried England in his heart after he helped defend it during World War II,
    Cute, but with all due respect MB didn't deploy to Britain until late 1942. The Battle of Britain was long over by then, Hitler had launched his disastrous invasion of Russia near 18 months before, and the UK was very much on the offensive. Any question of 'defending Britain' was long gone.
    Ouch.

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    The real 'heroes' were the ones like my father, who left the USA in1939 to join the RCAF and crewed B17's.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Earl View Post
    The real 'heroes' were the ones like my father, who left the USA in1939 to join the RCAF and crewed B17's.
    Everyone who participated in that war and gave his best effort was a hero, and yes special appreciation is appropriate for those who volunteered.

    Sadly though, at least back then the enemy was external, now it seems both great countries are being destroyed from within.

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    [QUOTE=BobR;3279848]
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Earl View Post

    Everyone who participated in that war and gave his best effort was a hero, and yes special appreciation is appropriate for those who volunteered.
    Are you extending that hero moniker to the Germans and Japs as well?

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    ^ Many of the Germans and Japanese did very heroic things. Just because they were on the wrong side does not mean that they did not not have their hero's. Rommel and the officers who partook in Operation Valkyrie were heroes for example.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by bsnub
    Melvin Rector long carried England in his heart after he helped defend it during World War II,
    Cute, but with all due respect MB didn't deploy to Britain until late 1942. The Battle of Britain was long over by then, Hitler had launched his disastrous invasion of Russia near 18 months before, and the UK was very much on the offensive. Any question of 'defending Britain' was long gone.
    By attacking Germany, he was defending Britain from a German attack .
    AS they say, attack is the best form of defense

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    No Flakey, Operation Sea Lion had been abandoned long before- it was a no goer. The real action was on the Eastern front, although the Allies were still mopping up things in the Desert campaign, and of course bombing Germany- the general course of action being America handled the daytime missions, the UK & Commonwealth allies the night missions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang View Post
    No Flakey, Operation Sea Lion had been abandoned long before- it was a no goer. The real action was on the Eastern front, although the Allies were still mopping up things in the Desert campaign, and of course bombing Germany- the general course of action being America handled the daytime missions, the UK & Commonwealth allies the night missions.
    So, what was the reason for the Memphis Belle bombing Germany, if it was the defend Britain from a German attack ?

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    U'mm, it was WW2. The objective was to defeat Germany and the Axis powers. Honestly mate, what a dumb question.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang View Post
    U'mm, it was WW2. The objective was to defeat Germany and the Axis powers. Honestly mate, what a dumb question.

    To defeat Germany to stop them doing what ?
    Considering that in 1942, Britain was at war with Germany

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    (^ In reference to your post number 2)

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    Occupying Europe, invading Russia, killing Djoos & Slavs. Hitler abandoned operation Sea Lion long before.

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    ^ An excellent story there.

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    [quote=Iceman123;3279851]
    Quote Originally Posted by BobR View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Earl View Post

    Everyone who participated in that war and gave his best effort was a hero, and yes special appreciation is appropriate for those who volunteered.
    Are you extending that hero moniker to the Germans and Japs as well?
    Yes, and that's the tragedy of war, we are whats indoctrinated into us almost from birth. The Nazi and Japanese political leaders were evil, but there are/were good and bad soldiers on both sides.

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    [QUOTE=BobR;3280133]
    Quote Originally Posted by Iceman123 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by BobR View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Earl View Post

    Everyone who participated in that war and gave his best effort was a hero, and yes special appreciation is appropriate for those who volunteered.
    Are you extending that hero moniker to the Germans and Japs as well?
    Yes, and that's the tragedy of war, we are whats indoctrinated into us almost from birth. The Nazi and Japanese political leaders were evil, but there are/were good and bad soldiers on both sides.
    When it comes to WWI, the leaders of the Allied forces were evil as well.

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    Sentimental claptrap raises its head yet again.

    How about all those black guys who risked their necks and got nothing but shit from hypocritical Uncle Sam for their pains.

    Licking Hitler was the common aim and where that took place was nothing but operational need. Defending England is of course journalistic licence from a writer who clearly is still learning his craft and history, too.

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